Sunday, August 24, 2014

First impressions of New Delhi
Hit the ground running but jetlagged, feeling like an extra in a zombie apocalypse flick.
Delhi is hot.  Descriptors are insufficient.  I land at 9pm and it feels over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Delhi is acrid.  Having lived in Beijing, I am prepared for the worst, surviving days with visibility so low you had to lie to yourself that it was fog to muster up the courage to go outside. I lack a keen sense of smell, something I have always cherished on long bus rides and in large developing cities, but even my dull nose can comprehend the pungent air; it feels like I am a prisoner of an unventilated parking garage in the desert.
Delhi is clean.  The extra bureaucratic funding and attention is apparent – streets are swept, medians are landscaped, and rotaries are decorated with extravagant fountains that mock the sweltering temperatures, Vegas-style.
Delhi is green.  Delhi must be one of the greener cities on the planet, even in the peak of the dry season before the monsoon.  Birds abound.
Delhi isn’t too loud.  Horns go off with high frequency, but without animosity.  With many cars, rickshaws, bikes, and carts sharing few lanes, a horn is neither antagonistic (unlike, say, Los Angeles) nor aggressive–it is a simple statement “I’m here.”
And so I am.  After 8 weeks of visa delay (don’t ask and I won’t tell) I am here.
My Internship
The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is he premier think tank in India funded by but autonomous from the Ministry of Defence. It will be my home for the next three months, thanks to generous grants from the Sigur Center as well as the Graduate School Career Development center.  Working at the East Asia Centre with Dr. Jagannath Panda, I will research the strategic triangle of India, China, and the United States, and how China both compels and constrains the India-United States relationship.  This complex subject touches on the most sensitive of issues--India's hallowed strategic autonomy, Chinese fear of encirclement, and the demands of the 'rebalancing' United States.
Despite my jetlag, big things are happening.  There is a Chinese charm offensive after Narendra Modi's recent election.  I meet Ambassador Weiwei.  He has a slick salesman vibe about himself, and is diplomatic enough to briefly chat with a mere intern and compliment my Mandarin; any nonnative speaker of Chinese knows even a 'hello' in Mandarin will elicit gushing compliments on your ability.  Regardless, I will chose to take the accolade at face value.
Ambassador Weiwei is at IDSA for a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Panscheel and its Relevance for India China Relations.  Panscheel, or five principles in Sanskrit, was first enumerated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India signed in 1954.  This was the heyday of Nehru's optimism of a united postcolonial Asia, with India and China working together--hindi chinni bhai bhai.  This bonhomie was shattered just short years later by India's shocking defeat in the 1962 war. Any student of Chinese foreign policy sees the centrality of the Five Principles in official documents, but the Panscheel bring back bad memories and lingering suspicions for India.  In the same way the United States both engages and hedges with China, as does India, needing Chinese investment and trade as well as a stable border. I hope to explore Indian perceptions of both China and the United States to understand India's response to China's rise and what role the United States may play.  It is a large and sensitive question, but I am ready to get started.

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